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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  February 28, 2014 5:00am-7:01am EST

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thank you very much. [speaking italian] ladies and gentlemen, we look towards ukraine with admiration. we look with great admiration to the people of maidan square. our colleagues have been there and witnessed what is going on. people have how
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been standing up against the repressive regime. of violence waves perpetrated against the people standing up for the cause of rule of law. who wanted to get rid of arbitrary -- we have seen values -- rule of law and democracy are the aspiration. and we have seen how a regime goes from preaching these principles on how it is possible go for.w ukraine to havers of the opposition shown courage. realizing that together, we can end the violence.
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the enough substance to the protest -- it is essential that now toort the country establish stable institutions and ensure that presidential elections take place. we give them as much assistance as we can. wes is why it is important do not inflict procedures we cannot respond to. we need to give this country ever support we can. we have to hope russia will show a responsible -- and support the .ountry
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to make sure there is no economic extortion. canave to ensure that we support the establishment of the ukrainee and prosperous also in the interest of russia. something which is to be imparted in article 49. the government has got to be -- it will need economic support to strengthen the economy and strengthen the country politically. this is a goal. we need to give the country the support it needs.
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there are two blue cards for you. .r. stoyanov please. >> thank you, president. what does he think about the abolishment of the language law the ukrainian government debt. the bulgarian minority that has been living there for 200 years is deprived of its rights. think this is a pro-european step forward? because i would not agree with you. [applause] you should look at the
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legislation that says that russian is the second national in which. -- second national language. and therefore, as the resolution states, this is a position to be reconciled with the position in the ukraine. we aspire to achieve a country the rulefree and under of law. we do not wish to get involved and other spurious arguments. thank you. >> the president of the foreign affairs committee, i would like to ask you. international committee inquired into the responsibilities that toled 80 ukrainians trying
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expect democracy. a change in power is not enough of a sanction. i would like to invite the european government to receive ukraine wantsthe the government has been appointed. it is in the interest of both sides -- what do you think? >> thank you very much. -- delegation [indiscernible] we were involved in meetings last week with representatives of the institutions and the president at the time. and we will continue to have these discussions and we will accept invitations to meet with these governments.
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we have always taken the view that we should be involved in discussions for both parties, this is an inclusive process that will make a genuine antribution to establishing state where future for the country. that is the offer we hope the country will take up and we hope they will get endorsement from that from the european parliament. >> thank you very much. colleagues,ner, chance to up the build a prosperous and inclusive country. it will not be easy. for a stabled -- inclusive government where all the forces work together. although forces in the opposition up until now, the major forces from the night on -- the major forces from the
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maidan, as well as the people and the voters who voted for the party of regions should be included. the country needs stability in the first few days and weeks. the financial and economic issues will have to be looked out. if not, there will be a collapse. , at is needed, in my view short term credit for the country. we were told that the country will need in the next few days or weeks something life $4 billion. that the country needs it, to prepare a medium program. the eu should participate. ukraine is a member of the imf, it should be done with the assistance of imf. donors conference was mentioned. this is exactly the way we should go.
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the problems are huge, the sounds are big. neither eu or single member states, nor ukraine can deal with those issues by itself. we need browner communities. community broader is. these are the issues mentioned. if you look at the situation, visitedkrainians never a single country of the european union. we have to change that. it would be good for the ukrainians and it is our moral duty. let's get rid of the visa issues. finally, the association agreement, the comprehensive retail agreement. i think we should also give ukraine the european perspective according to the article 49. thank you. >> thank you.
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2.5 minutes. thank you madam chair. i would like to appreciate this people who do not accept realities. that a soviet block with -- would beviet bloc there forever. europe said we need stability. but they were courageous. the people of my down did not accept reality. they were courageous. many were killed. what we were able to do was to side with them from all political parties in the european parliament. to be with them and the decisive moment when history was in the making. they were and are courageous.
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from all parts of life and all political groups, people want to live in a free country. so, they did not accept realities. today, we must do what we can do. to assist them in a financial and economic way together with the imf. to help them and make democracy work. they will do the work but we can be of assistance. we should not offer things we are not prepared to give. i would not like to engage in the whole membership issue. what we can do to associate with them, they are courageous people. they need our support. let's hope it will be a third wave of freedom in eastern europe. thank you very much.
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>> coming up on c-span, a house panel investigates a should not helicopter that was shot down in southwest kabul, afghanistan in 2011. on "washington journal," a look at since his data for population trends under the age of 35. "washington journal" is live each morning at 7:00 eastern. presidentobama called karzai in afghanistan this week. telling him there will be no troops on the ground in 20 14. state department representative james dobbins will talk about the future of afghanistan. live coverage from the u.s. institute of peace starts at 9:15 eastern on c-span2. on c-span3, the house judiciary
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possible looks at changes to the criminal code. charged with improving current statutes last year. live coverage begins at 9:00 a.m. eastern. we bring public affairs events from washington directly to you. putting you in the room at congressional hearings, white house events, briefings, and conferences. in offering complete coverage of the u.s. house as a public service of private industry. we are c-span, and created 35 years ago and funded by your local cable and satellite provider. watch us in hd, like us on facebook, follow us on twitter. e-house oversight panel investigates the 2011 downing of a helicopter in afghanistan that left 30 americans dead. pentagon officials testify about
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the deadliest single day for u.s. forces in the 12 year afghanistan war. this is chaired by jason chaffetz of utah. the committee will come to order. thank you all for being here. >> thank you all for being here. 17 has been extraordinarily di nearly impossible to effectively solicit and subsequently meet the needs and wishes of every
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family member and loved one that was on board extortion 1-7. i want to assure the families that this committee questioned the department of defense officials on the full spectrum of the mission to include extremely sensitive and highly classified information. in an effort to fully understand the events pertaining to the strategy that unfolded that day, we have tried our best to treat all the families' interests equally, knowing that there's a wide range of spectrum and perspectives given the sheer number of people and families that ren gaged in this. two of these -- two of america's best happen to be from my congressional district in utah, and a number of members obviously care deeply about this issue. you're going to see members coming and going in this hearing. we have lots of different things happening in congress at the same time. some families may claim we have not done enough by not allowing
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classified or highly graphic information to be discussed today, and others may claim that any discussion about extortion 1-7 is counterprodifbt and opens old wounds. if i did not believe that the majority of the families wanted a forum like this to exist, we would not be conducting this hearing. advertise it is extremely sensitive. there are things that we cannot and will not be discussing in this hearing given the classified nature. i hope that people understand that. that's the way united states of america operates, and our first and foremost concern is to make sure we protect the ongoing lives and operations of the united states military. but i will say the united states is different than the rest of the world. we are open. we are transparent. we are self-critical, and we do so in a spirit of making things better. i'd also -- so today as we start this, i'd like to welcome ranking member tierny and the
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subcommittee, particularly congressman lynch who has shown a great deal of interest in this. i want to welcome mr. rigell who has spent a lot of time on this. though not a member of this committee, i appreciate his appearance here today. on august 6th of 2011, taliban insurgents killed 30 member servicemen including 17 navy s.e.a.l.s and making it the largest single day loss of life in naval special warfare history. the largest single day during the events that unfolded that night are commonly referred to as extortion 1-7, which is the call sign for the helicopter transporting the special operations personnel. we are here today at the request of many of the families of the fallen heros aboard extortion 1-7 to obtain answers to their questions, where answers can be found. this hearing also serves to honor the 30 american servicemen aboard extortion 1-7 and their families. i've traveled to afghanistan
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numerous times and visited with the servicemen and women there and have nothing but the greatest admiration and respect for those serving our country. over the course of many months the committees have had open and ongoing dialogue with many of the families and servicemen -- families of the servicemen aboard the extortion 1-7. in an effort to get answers to outstanding questions, some concerning the operations, others regarding postmortem events, we have asked them to express their concerns with the committee. in addition to attending a funeral, i personally met with some of the families of the 30 servicemen to hear concerns and listen carefully to what questions they had about the tragic event. i offer my deepest condolences to all of the families who have lost a loved one of this event and heart goes out to the bigger broader military family and community because i know how much any care about their colleagues and friends and people they serve with.
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it is important as a nation we not forgot the service of all men and women who serve this country. they have served us in the past, they are serving us now, and they will serve us in the future. in advance of the hearing, the committee staff has encouraged the families to submit written testimony for the record and pass on questions that may be directed to the department of defense by members of congress. there is an order and process to this which i'm proud to help facilitate. because the commity takeses the concerns of families with great sincerity, for more than eight months we're been reviewing the facts surrounding extorg did a 1-7. the committee has performed an extensive reviewed of 200,000 pages of unclassified material relating to extortion 1-7, and the committee has met with independent sources with direct and indirect knowledge of the facts surrounding extortion-1-7 and they have received briefings of classified and unclassified on the operational comp meant leading to the loss of 30 servicemen and 8 afghan
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nationals, and on the port more tim handling of the 30 servicemen on extortion 1-7. i'd like to take a moment to thank the department of defense for their cooperation with the subcommittee and providing answers to many of the questions i've asked and others have asked of the department. the facts surrounding extortion 17 are terribly heartbreaking and we appreciate the candor and willingness to answer difficult questions from both side of the aisle. the committee has reviewed these facts in a bipartisan way. we've had open, transparent dialogue with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle. today the committee will be specifically looking into whether the remains of u.s. personnel were treated with the proper respect they deserve and whether the department of defense procedures were followed and sufficient. i strongly believe that every fallen hero deserves to be treated with a proper amount of dignity and respect. if there are concerns calling into question the department policies, we are here today to have productive discussion and how we can ensure the proper treatment of the remains of the servicemen. i'd like to emphasize it is the
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intent of the subcommittee to attain all of the available information about the events following the crash of extorsion 17, to dispel potential myths and to learn from the event so that we can ensure proper reforms are itchmented. i want to take a moment to recognize the dedication of our loyal servicemen to this country. they maintain the security and the bed rosk our principles. in this vain i'm greatly saddened that 1,795 u.s. military personnel have given their lives to serve in afghanistan since september 11, 2001, and 19,665 have been wounded in action during that same time frame. we must pay respect to those men and women and their families and thank them for their service. i personally believe as a community, as a nation, we can do more to help and support and recognize and honor them. at the same time i want to commend the witnesses, three of which are dressed in uniform and
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two retired officers for their service to this country and thank them for appearing before the subcommittee on a very difficult topic. their heart's in the right place, having met with them and chatted with them. they serve our nation. we honor them and we thank you for what in attending is a very difficult topic, but we appreciate your service, and we thank you for being here today. with that i would now like to recognize the distinguished ranking member, the gentleman from massachusetts, mr. tierny for his opening statement. >> thank you, mr. chairman. before we begin today i think it's extremely important that we honor the lives of all of our fallen heros, the untold contributions that they have made to the service of this country and to the families who mourn their losses. we need to remember that not only did we lose 30 great warriors that night in the afghan battlefield but the burden is now carried by the families who lost sons, fathers, brothers and husbands mpz i'd like to acknowledge that some of the families are here with us today. for you and the other families who couldn't attend today's proceedings, i want to express
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my profound gratifitude for you sons' services and also express my condolences for your loss. mr. chairman, i understand there are some out there who strongry believe this hearing that are necessary and there are other families and their representatives who have contacted the subcommittee and expressed grave concern about today's hearing. they asked for privacy, and they seek cloesh you're, so i realize some have more questions about what happened. we should acknowledge not all of the families affected with this tragedy support these proceedings, and i have confidence, mr. chairman, that you'll make all efforts to conduct today's discussion with both dignity and fairness. i think it's also important to acknowledge that earlier this week senior firms from the pentagon provided an extensive briefing to members and staff where many questions were asked and answered about the topics that we may not be able to discuss at today's hearing. we also received an unclassified briefing last week on some of the post-operations concerns that you do intend to discuss today. pentagon officials provided answers to many questions, and i like forward to their testimony
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today, which i hope may provide some answers to those that are still seeking them. mr. chairman, i would also like to acknowledge the distinguished men and women on today's panel. these officials also served their country. some have even served in harm's way, and others served as one of the final caretakers of our fallen heros. during the briefings last week we heard from these officials just how humbling their work truly is. it's not made it easy by the fact that the fallen heros are also their comrades. finally, mr. chairman, i want to conclude by noting that to date we've lost 2,175 brave americans during the war in afghanistan and tens of thousands of others who have been wounded and severely debill dated. while we're here today to discuss events surrounding the tragic death of 30 brave americans, less also take the opportunity to acknowledge the thousands of men and women who are sacrificed and paid the ultimate price in their service to this country. thank you, mr. chairman. >> mr. chairman, i have a unanimous consent request. i would request, mr. chairman, that after your remarks and the
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remarks of the ranking member that we insert in the record of the hearing at this point the names of those individuals, servicemen who lost their life in the chinook helicopter disaster, and i would ask that that be printed immediately after your remarks. >> without objection, so ordered. >> all right. >> i would like to thank again the members of our subcommittee for attending and like to recognize mr. fortenberry who has been involved and engaged in this issue and appreciate his presence here today. i would also remind members that they may have seven days to submit opening statements for the record. that would be all members, even those that do not serve here on our committee. it's now -- at this point i would like to recognize our panel, and we have members
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representing the pentagon and we have mr. gary p. reed who is the principal deputy secretary of defense for special operations and low intensity conflict at the united states department of defense, miss deborah skillman is the director of casualty and mortuary affairs at the united states department of defense. we have colonel john devillier, my apologies, the commander of air force mortuary affairs operations at the united states department of defense. colonel kirk brown is the director of army casualty and mortuary affairs operations center at the united states department of defense, and we have commander aaron brodsky, the director of navy casualty services at the united states department of defense. pursuant to committee rules, all witnesses will be sworn before they testify. if you would please rise and raise your right hands.
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do you solemnly swear or affirm that the testimony you're about to give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? thank you. you may be seated. let the reflect that the witnesses all answered in the affirmative. as we have discussed with the department of defense, i want our audience, and particularly the families to know that there are some limitations on things that we can discuss. as i've mentioned, there are certain classified information, certain things about the actual operation itself that we cannot and will not in a non-classified setting discuss. that is for the safety and security of the ongoing operations of ours military. it's imperative that we do this so that we do not allow insurgents and other enemies of the united states of america to gain an operational advantage. we will adhere to that. i will assure you that as representatives that we've had classified briefings, and if we have to have additional classified briefings we will so members can ask their questions.
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the department of defense and the witnesses here today understand this. we are -- while we have five witnesses here today, i believe we're going to have three opening statements so we're going to give great liberty to the fact that some of these have been combined, and i believe we're going to start first with mr. reed. >> please, proceed. >> thank you, chairman, chairman chaffetz, ranking member tierny and distinguished members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. i'm here in the capacity as a senior defense official with oversight of our special operations, but i'm also here ed and i bring to that job my background of over 28 years of service in the u.s. army and special operations forces working very closely with the organizations about that we'll be talking about today.
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i'm joined by a team of civilian and military subject matter experts to honor the fallen and to answer your questions. the downing of extortion 17 was a catastrophic and unprecedented tragedy for our nation. as you indicated, chairman, sadly since 2001 there have been 1,795 u.s. military personnel killed in action in afghanistan. any loss of our warriors is a grim reminder of the tragedies of war, the violence of combat action and the perilous lives our forces live each day in defense of our nation and our values. our sadness for their loss, however, cannot be compared to the pain and anguish of our gold star families, some of whom are here today. their sacrifices cannot be measured and their losses can never be replaced. we're deeply humbled to be in their presence and hope our
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testimony can answer their questions and in some small measure hope to bring them an additional amount of comfort. above all, we're here to pay respect for our fallen heroes and pay tribute to their ultimate sacrifice and honor their service. again, chairman, as you indicated on august 5th, 2011, the brave men of extortion 17 embarked on an important mission as they had done so many times before. they were part of a highly capable task force that had conducted more than 2,800 operations in afghanistan in the previous 12 months using tactics and met odds proven in over ten years of combat against the taliban and al qaeda in afghanistan. tragically as extortion 17 was nearing its landing zone, taliban fighters hidden in a building fired two or three regrenades at close range, leaving the pilot no chance to perform evasive maneuvers.
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one rocket struck a rotor blade causing the aircraft to crash almost instantly. the recovery operation commenced immediately and lasted four days. all of the fallen were recovered within hours, and ultimately nearly all of the wreckage was recovered. contrary to some unofficial statements there was no flight data recorder or so-called black box. this equipment is not standard on this aircraft. all of the fallen were taken to bagram air base. a solemn memorial service marked the beginning of a dignified and respectful journey home for the brave men of extortion 17. a u.s. military chaplain paid tribute to the fallen as did both the commander of the u.s. task force and the afghan special operations unit involved in the crash. an investigation was launched immediately, completed within 30
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days, and i would like to highlight some of the results and conclusions of that investigation. we believe our forces employed sound tactics in planning and excaughting their fateful mission. their high-tempo operations paced over the previous several months was essential to maintaining pressure on the enemy and their success in past operations validated the successfulness. we believe it enhances the potential for mission success. this specially selected group attached to our task force make invaluable additions to their capabilities having superior knowledge of the operating environment, the cultural differences and, of course, the native language capability. we do not believe the special operations variant of the chin yearbook would have fared any differently than extortion 17 on that night. there is no techniadvantage inherent in the special operations model that would have protected it from the rocket that downed the aircraft.
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we recognize, however, that these helicopters are vulnerable to regrenades. although there's currently no proven system to counter that particular weapon and that particular enemy tactic in the two and a half years since this tragic loss, we have fielded 24 different survivability and safety equipment upgrades on over 2,000 of our military aircraft. with the chinook ch-47 receiving as many as four of these individual up grades, and we continue our efforts, with the support of congress, to fund the research and development to develop the countermeasures that we would need to protect against the rpg. but i have to say no chances in technology or any change in the way we operate will bring back our fallen heros or's the pain of their loved ones. we honor their sacrifices by continuing to dedicate ourselves to defending the nation from
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attack, upholding our values as americans and remembering the families left behind. through our enduring commitment to the gold star families, we'llcher itch the sacrifices of the fallen and keep them forever in our hearts. chairman, ranking member, i stand ready to address your questions. thank you very much. >> thank you. miss gilman. >> chairman chaffetz, ranking member tierny and distinguished members of the committee, i want to thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to answer questions regarding our assistance to surviving family members of these 30 brave heros killed in act on august 6th, 2011. i am the program manager for casualty and mortuary affairs within the office of secretary of defense. in this capacity, i'm responsible for providing uniform policies and procedures to the military department, for notifying and assisting the next of kin service members who become a casualty.
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my office is also the focal point for the coordination of all matters related to the mortuary affairs programs. as a little background on myself, i am a retired army colonel with over 12 years experience working in this particular program. this particular program. the department holds casualty and mortuary affairs program among our most solemn responsibilities to our service members, our surviving family members and to our nation. a fundamental element of military culture and tradition is that we hold our fallen in the highest esteem and provide surviving family members with the highest level of care and continued support. my office is responsible for promulgating casualty and mortuary affairs policy that reflect these core values, and we work in coordination with the service members and the colleagues, my colleagues that you see at the table here today, to ensure that the intent of our policies is reflected throughout all casualty and mortuary tasks and processes.
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if i could just take a moment about some of the testimony you will hear today and some common terminology that my colleagues will be using, we will be discussing the duty form 93. this is the record of emergency data, and i want to note that the form 93 is the voice of the service member upon his or her death. this form is completed by all service members at regular intervals during military service and informs the casualty offices of whomt service member wishes to be notified in the event he or she becomes a casualty. the form also indicates. who service member wishes to receive certain death benefits, and it allows the service member to designate the person authorized to direct disposition or the pad. it's worth noting that the service member can select anyone as the pad, not necessarily a family member. and the p.a.d. is the single person that the casualty office may take direction from regarding the disposition of the
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service members' remains. before i pass it over to my colleague colonel devillier, my colleagues in the army and navy casualty office have also prepared a statement, and i request that they be allowed to provide that for the record. again, i want to thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today, and it's my honor and privilege to serve in this capacity. i hope today we'll be able to address your concerns. >> thank you, and thank you for your service and your caring, and, of course, we will enter that into the record. colonel? >> chairman chaffetz, ranking member tierny and distinguished members of the subcommittee, i appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the process of disposition of our fallen heros from extortion 17. since march 2012 i've had the honor and privilege to serve with some of the finest soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines and civilians who work behind the scenes providing dignity, honor and respect to
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our nation's combat fallen as well as care, service and support to their families. while the port mortuary has been associated with dover air force base delaware since the 1950s, the organization i command was activated in early 2009 in response to department of defense directed changes surrounding authorized family travel to dover air force base and media access to dignified transfer. my organization has both air force specific roles along with being the lead service component for dignified transfers and affecting final disposition of our fallen as directed by the person authorized to direct disposition, the pad. since the implementation of policy changes in 2009, team dover has welcomed home over 1,800 of our nation's fallen and supported over 8,700 of their families. the events surrounding the return of the fallen from extortion 17 are seen as a watershed for our operation at dover in terms of mass
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fatalities. team dover is supported well over 800 family, friends and unit members as well as more than 40 distinguished visitors designed to pair their respects to these brave heros. while i was not present for this event, it was a monumental undertaking for the entire team in terms of support. as with every fallen service member who arrives at dover, the fallen from this event were taken into the medical legal custody of the armed forces medical examiners system for scientific investigation which may include fingerprinting, dental and/or dna testing followed by a med autopsy. upon the scientific identification, the chain of custody for the fallen is then passed to my organization to affect final disposition as directed by the pad. for this incident as a whole my.
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four were cremated at the port mortuary and four were cremated at their final resting place. again, we consider this incident a watershed moment, and we have made a number of changes in terms of our in-place support mekcisms. in father 2013 we opened a new command and control facility to enhance new communication between the branches of service and my organization. additionally in february 2013 a new chapel was open on dover with one-third of the space dedicated to our operation in terms of facilities to further support families. in my nearly 21 years of active militarier is vicious i've never served in a more honorable or humbling mission. the men and women who work tirelessly behind the scenes under my command see the worst results of conflict. not only do they honor the fallen, they serve the families who are often experiencing the worst moments of their lives, and these quiet professional ask for nothing in return.
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i'm proud to serve as their commander. thank you for your time and the strong support for the men and women of the department of the air force. thank you, colonel. colonel brown. >> chairman chaffetz, ranking member tierny and other distinguished members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to represent the united states army, and i am humbled to provide testimony in honor of the service members of extortion 17. i've served as the director of the army casualty and mortuary operations center since july 2012. the mission of the casualty and mortuary affairs operations center is to execute the full spectrum of army casualty and mortuary affairs for present and past conflicts. in this role the casualty and mortuary affairs operation center provides policy and direction to 33 casualty directory assistance centers around the world, develops casualty as and it and casualty notification, training, provides notification, casualty assistance and management for injured, ill, missing and deceased personnel, and operates
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the joint personal effects depot at dover air force base for all the services. on august 6, 2011, five soldiers were killed in action in support of the extortion 17 mission. the notification and assistance provided to the soldiers' next of kin were completed in accordance with policy. the army recognizes that people are the army, and our dedicated and talented force is the reason the united states army is second to none. the army remains committed to honor our nation's commitment to its soldiers and the families of deceased, injured, ill and unaccounted for through compassionate and responsive support. thank you for your continued support to the united states army, and i look forward to answering your questions. >> thank you, colonel. commander brodsky. >> chairman chaffetz, ranking member tierny, other distinguished members, good morning. i'm director of navy casualty
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and mortuary affairs at navy personnel command in millington, tennessee. thank you also for this opportunity of the i've been director of navy casualty since august 2013. my office's lead for the navy casualty programs including next of kin notification, excuse of properly and timely note figures and entitlements and benefits authorization. we do this across three tiers, navy personnel command, entitlement extuesday and after care, commander naval installation command which is 24/7 operations through regional operations center and the casualty assistance calls center and training and assignment and our network of more than 6,000 trained cacos world wide. i'm here to discuss procedures with regard to casualty assistance and i'll discuss the manner in which casualty ags tans was rendered to the families of the 22 navy personnel who perished on extortion 17. the navy first learned of the extortion 17 incident, all
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established protocols and procedures were undertaken. next of kin were notified and within a few hours the extent of the casualty became well known. special operations group and command teamed with navy casualty and trained cacos and command representatives notified each next of kin and provided follow-on assistance to all the families and their outrized beneficiaries. special warfare community, is unfortunately, well versed in casualty assistance, and within the first 24 hours they established a casualty assistance and call center and created casualty teams for each family. this command and control structure complemented our own and provided not only an increase in capability and capacity but also lent their expertise and professional insight. to echo my colleagues at the end of the day we all want the same thing, timely and compassionate care for our grieving gold star families. the assistance rendered to navy families is professionally and
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professionally conducted, always prioritizing their needs with the acute sensitivity for the profound grief they experienced. on behalf of navy leadership and men and women of the united states navy and their families i thank you as well for your commitment to these heros. extortion 17, and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you commander, appreciate it. i actually have some unanimous consent questions. the first request i have is to place in the record the statements of mary strange, terry pitman, ida pitman, charlie strange and doug hamburger. >> no objection. >> without objection, so ordered. also ask unanimous consent to insert into the record dd form 33 that was mentioned in part of the testimony, or 93. without -- without objection? >> no objection. >> so order. i'll now recognize myself for five minutes. mr. reid, without touching into
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the -- in the classified information, what can you tell us about why this mission was happening and what they were trying to do, why they were engaged in this, and, again, i r recognize the limitations you have in a non-classified setting, but if you could set the context, i would appreciate it. >> thank you, chairman. the objective on this night was to capture a senior taliban commander operating in a valley that cuts between two main highways south of kabul, the capital of afghanistan. the strategic relevance of this valley is it provide the taliban with a sanctuary and a jumping-off point. their goal is to conduct spectacular attacks in kabul, to terrorize afghans that support the government and support the coalition and to attack our bases there. that's the strategic context of
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this particular mission. as part of a broader campaign, as you know, chairman, to dismantle and defeat these taliban organizations throughout afghanistan, to allow the government forces to establish the security foothold and transition out of u.s. combat actions as we will at the end of this year into afghans providing security. >> now, one of the more troubling and sensational stories that we've seen along the way is the idea that upon this -- the crash of the helicopter after it was shot is that the black box was supposedly washed away in a flash flood which defies -- i mean, it's really hard to believe. we have talked about this, but could you please respond to that story, because it's been out there fairly pervasively.
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>> yes, chairman, thank you. this valley, as i said, situated in between these mountains is part of a drainage system that feeds over into the central highlands of afghanistan over in the ruzgan province. the elgation in this particular valley is around 7,000 feet, but it is a drainage area for high mountain showers and snow melt. it's actually a very fertile valley with a large amount of agriculture. on the night of august 6th, as we were one day into the recovery effort, a flash flood swept through the valley. the aircraft upon crashing landed in a dry creek bed. that creek bed filled with up to four feet of water very quickly during the recovery effort, and some of the material from the crash was washed about 100 yards downstream. we have a photograph board, if you would like to enter it, sir. >> we can put that up. >> we can show the before and
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after. >> i think we're just going to show the flash flood. we're not going to show the actual wreckage itself. the idea that the black box washed away, was there a black box? >> no, sir, not in -- as i indicated, there is a device attached to the engines that records engine performance. the engines are new. in fact, the same engines that are on the other chinooks, the modern engines, but air frame itself is an analog aircraft. there is no source of digital data. >> there is no traditional so-called black box. >> that's correct, sir. >> even though there was a flash flood, and there are other photos as well. >> yes, sir. >> publicly, this is not zag we're revealing and showing for the very first time. this is something that is out there and widely available. ms. skillman, i want to talk about the ramp ceremony because one of the other major point of contention as i've talked to a lot of families is that there
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was a video of this service that was done in afghanistan. my understanding -- i have two questions about this, two concerns. one is why it was videotaped. my understanding is that is not what current d.o.d. policy is. my question is why did that happen? did it happen and why did it happen, and who was the person who was making the -- who participated in that service because there were some very concerning comments that were made by the person who is representing the afghans who were killed that night. >> sir, thank you for the question. i cannot address who was speaking at the memorial service at that particular ceremony in baghram. as we understand, the commanders conducted a memorial service, which is within policy. we expect our commanders to do
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that, and their interpretation of our policy was that the videotape was allowed. however, we've just learned that they recently republished their policy to reflect our considerations for the next of kin and wanting them to consent to any videotaping of their next of kin. so their regulation was revised in february of 2013 which we've just recently learned to reflect that current policy. >> i have more questions, but my time is expired. we'll now recognize the gentleman from massachusetts, mr. tierny. >> thank you on that. mr. reed, in your written remarks you provide a significant amount of detail about the operation of extortion 17, and, for instance, you mention the navy s.e.a.l. task force and the u.s. army ave kwags group and i quote spend weeks conducting operations nearly every other night, end quote. you stated the afghan soldiers deployed with the american special forces, and i quote again, were an essential part of the package. they are trained to move with
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our forces to the target and where tactical conditions allow initiate missions. over periods of here's hundreds of operations were conducted without firing a shot, close quote. you then stated that the rocket-propelled grenade that brought down extortion 17 left the pilot with less than one second to identify the threat, react and maneuver the 40,000-pound loaded helicopter. evasive action was not possible, end quote. regarding the flight route and the landing zone for extortion 17, you wrote, and i quote, this information was not provided to anyone outside the s.e.a.l. and army aviation task force commands because the mission was developed and approved after the ranger assault had begun, there was no coordination with afghan officials, close quote, and finally you state that you believe and i quote, the s.e.a.l. task force employed sound tactics in planning and executing their fateful mission and that you do not believe the ren gagement restricted our forces from engaging the enemy. mr. reid, with all -- we all
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believe that the downing of extortion 17 was a tragic loss of life. there's no doubt about that. how would you characterize the operation that? was it hastily and poorly planned as a mission? were the appropriate teams and equipment used? was the mission compromised? >> thank you, congressman. the mission was planned. this particular -- the s.e.a.l. mission was planned in the course of the ranger mission, and that planning process is deliberate, and what i mean is their role in this operation was a stand-by force should there be a necessity to deploy a second force. the way this worked at that time, they have two forces. they have the s.e.a.l.s and the rangers, and typically every our night, every third night you do an operation, one would be the lead, one would be the stand-by and that was the conditions this night. so there was always the condition and the intent to
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deploy this force based on the tactical circumstance, and as i indicated, sir, the circumstances were such that the enemy appeared to evade the initial attack and seek sanctuary in the valley in another location. the s.e.a.l. mission was constituted to come in from the other direct and intercept that taliban leader. we do not believe the mission was compromised. there is a coordination process with afghan leaders for these missions that was put in place years prior to mitigate against claims of civilian casualties and special operations that were not coordinated, but on this particular event, understanding the s.e.a.l. piece was done during the operation, there was no external coordination so there's no possibility of information going up the chain and then somehow coming back out to the taliban. we believe the enemy positioned himself in that building. whether or not he knew anyone was coming in. he was in a very advantageous
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place tactically to -- to strike the aircraft as it approached. >> thank you. >> thanks, mr. reid. so we just talk a little bit about the concern that we have h for the treatment of our fallen heros before the bodies were even to reach dover. they had a transfer ceremony at the baghram airfield. that ramp ceremony was conducted to honor those dead servicemen. miss skillman, it's my understanding that the ramp ceremonies are customary and that they are solemn and respectful events. can you explain why the ramp ceremony, what it is and why it occurred. >> thank you, sir. i can't address what happened in theater, however that we do -- commanders routinely conduct what we would consider a memorial service for their fallen which is exactly what happened on that day. >> and that's, as i say, customary. >> yes, sir, it is. >> and it's not customary generally to videotape as you
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mentioned to mr. chaffetz's question. >> no, sir, it is not. it was our intent that next of kin consent to any still photography or videoography of their loved ones, primarily the primary next of kin is responsible for that. however there's a misinterpretation of our policy and we've clarified that and centcom has recently revised their policies as i stated earlier. >> i yield back. >> i now recognize the gentlewoman from wyoming, the vice chairman of our subcommittee, miss lummis for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i want to extend my appreciation to the next of kin here present of our deceased members of the military who participate d in te mission that brought down extortion 17. we are grateful for your family's service, for you your sacrifice, and they will not be forgotten.
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i also want to comment, mr. chairman, on an old 2009 hbo movie called "taking chance" that was a documentary about a fallen iraq veteran, a marine by the name of chance phelps, and it illustrated the treatment that the military provides to our service men and women once they have been killed in action and their remains are being returned to their homes. chance phelps, who was the soldier who was killed and whose return to my home state of wyoming is illustrated in that
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film, is someone whose parents i knew, my husband and chance phelps' father were high school friends, and i know his mother very well and how proud we are that the manner in which he was treated was so well illustrated by the film and how it accurately, we believe, depicted the manner in which and the respect with which his remains were treated by the military, so i want to commend the work of our military services with regard to their very dignified and appropriately respectful treatment of those who gave their last measure of human devotion.
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i also would like to follow that up with a question this is for all witnesses. did the department follow protocol from the service men's authorization of human remains in the case of extortion 17? colonel devillier? >> in all 30 cases the direction provided by the written direction provided by the p.a.d. was followed appropriately. >> and are these records available to reflect that for anyone who might wish to use the freedom of information act to obtain that information? >> ma'am, family members can certainly request that through foy, and they would be redacted, according to the foia rules. >> okay. would anyone else care to offer perspective on that question? thank you. what are some of the guidelines for reporting, recording,
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notifying and assisting next of kin whoever d.o.d. casualties are sustained? once again, i would direct that question to whoever wishes to answer. miss skillman? >> mam, thank you for that question. the services are directed to provide standardized training for their notification offices, their casualty assistance officers, and to provide proactive support to family members. . they will have a dialogue with the family members that they are assisting, and they will proactively provide them with information regarding the circumstances surrounding the death as soon as it becomes available and provide them regular updates. they will also assist them with the benefits, requesting reports of investigation and then continued follow-on care. >> did the department follow its policies in the case of the families of extortion 17? >> ma'am, from our records, there's all indication that each of the services followed the
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policies and procedures as prescribed by d.o.d. >> okay. also, for you, miss skillman, how can we improve the policies to ensure that families receive all the casualty information to which they are legally entitled? >> ma'am, thank you for that question. we are constantly improving our program, and it's through forums such as this, input from our family members, our veteran service organizations, our partner agencies such as the department of veterans affairs that we make continued improvements. >> thank you. my time has expired. >> i thank the gentlewoman. now represent the gentlewoman from new york, miss maloney, for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman, mr. ranking member, and thank you to all of the panelists, and before i -- i ask my question i want to join with all of my colleagues and all the members on this panel to acknowledge the sacrifice made by the fallen
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heros as well as the families, some of whom are here today. and i would like to go back, if i could, to the questioning on the flight recorder or the so-called black box, and i'd like to ask mr. reid and thank you for your public service. my power also served in the special forces with the army, and we're very proud of the work of that division for our country. the chairman -- i believe you answered the question from the chairman that there was no black box, that's correct, that there was no black box? >> yes, ma'am, that's correct. i want to ask to clarify that. do other ch-47ds have a black box? >> no, ma'am. the aircraft is not a digital -- does not have a suite of digital electronics. it has gauges, analog gauges. that gauges do not provide you with the ability to withdraw, extract digital data that you
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could record. >> now today there was a photograph of a flash flood that we saw earlier, but i've received some correspondence to my office that suggested that there was not a flash flood, so i'd like to . >> can you explain to us that a flash flood occurred in that creek bed. so can you clarify? >> ma'am, i can clarify having read the report and spoken to individuals involved and seen the photographs and studied the climate data from my own assess. . i believe it's perfectly logical and credible that a flood occurred. we had up to 140 people at that site over the period of four
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days. about 45 or 50 within an hour. we never left that site until everything was recovered. multiple accounts and photographs show the water in the creek that was not there on the first day. it happened on the night of the 6th of august, ma'am. >> so, did the flash flood complicate the recovery? >> it halted the efforts temporarily because we had to move people to higher ground. but as these occur even in our own desert southwest area they come very quickly without warning and of ten recede just as quickly. but the majority of the wreckage had been recovered at that time. >> i'm aware that is not a standard configuration. >> this is one of the greatest losses of life that we have had in any single incident i guess
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that is correct? >> this is the largest loss in afghanistan, sir, that is correct. >> what was used was it an mh-46 or a ch-47 d or chinook helicopter, what was used? >> it was a model the d model. ch 47. >> mr. reid, this is one of the greatest losses of life that we've had. in any single incident. i guess that's correct? >> this sis the largest loss in afghanistan, yes, sir, that's correct. >> what was used was it an mh-46 or a ch-47 d or chinook helicopter, what was used? >> it was a model the d model.
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ch 47. >> this was a high-risk mission? >> the risk assessment overall was a high risk mission, yes, sir. >> we put our men in that count be protected. i've been in afghanistan and they only put me on certain types of equipment that would protect me from rpg's. why would we risk a high risk mission on putting our men on this kind of equipment?
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first, i'm concerned that you put our people in equipment and we have equipment for high risk missions where they wouldn't be killed. >> sir specific to this, no? >> we do not. >> you also testified that the guys who fired this were in a building. i'm concerned about the people that were in that building. don't we assess you said it was a high risk mission. that these guys were there. i don't know that we can discuss the investigation and the afghans that they had about the mission and if they use those rpg's to take down a piece of
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equipment that couldn't protection our people. was there a thorough investigation in august 6th, 2011 were you there were you in charge? >> no, sir. >> who was in charge. >> the u.s. central command sir. >> who was the individual in charge? >> i think we need to be hearing from that individual. i would like to also find out who made the decision, also i want to know about the investigation and what afghans had information as to this mission. >> sir, no afghans were provided information on the mission. these 8 afghans onboard were
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part of our team. >> none of the afghans were briefed in advance to where they were going. >> again, i would like to see further reports and i would like to made part or reference and if it is classified information. >> i'm concerned one the right equipment wasn't used we put our people at risk and also i just do not trust the afghan anies. when i was there i'm telling you, their everything they do i would question right from the president who i think is corrupt and the money we are pouring down that rat hole and then losing lives on top of this is sinful. >> mr. brown, army mortuary is the mess at arlington cleaned up and the way we treat the remains of our fallen. are you satisfied in what has been done there? i've never seen anything as what i have learned took place at arlington. is that cleaned up have you
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followed that? >> sir, that is outside my purview. >> how long have you been there? >> i've served as the director of army casualty since july of 2012. >> again, you are aware of the mess i'm talking about. >> yes, sir i am. >> and can you provide me the names of the individuals and put it in the record of who was in charge of the remains at that particular time and then i would like a statement from you or someone in your office that you believe that the situation has been cleared up that the remains that were misplaced or abused that we have also taken care of
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that situation. can you provide that to the committee. sir, i will provide that for the record. >> thank you, i revealed back. >> i know recognize the gentlemen from massachusetts. >> thank you mr. charge. i want to offer my condolences to the families of our fallen heros. >> we deep live appreciative of all of their family service and sacrifice. i want to acknowledge mr. chairman the work that you have done on this and both staffs democrat and republican working together the energy and the thoroughness with which the committee has taken great pains and sensitivity regarding the
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they say they can perform simple maintenance, it is very reliable aircraft, but there have been a lot of questions in the general press about the appropriateness of using the ch47d in this ,ntrance -- in this instance very tight mountains of the northern and there, it widens given the south, but aggregate circumstances here, was this an appropriate aircraft
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something was the that was thrown together as a last minute because that allegation has been out there as well. >> thank you, sir. this was the appropriate aircraft for this mission. the choice of this aircraft was tactically sound. other aircraft may have been used, but what could not have been used and has been questioned was the black hawk. one of the issues with the war in afghanistan is the elevations in the mountains and nation of helicopter, which frankly in my career we did not use extensively in other conflicts or even in iraq in the first and in sector time -- second time, we use mostly, and that is because of elevation. -- we used mostly black hawk, and that is because of elevation. the distinction is the high
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technology terrain following navigation system, and the in- flight refueling ability and a larger fuel tank. beyond that, they are the same aircraft. missionticular tactical was about a 15-mile flight on known terrain in clear weather. the avionics capability of the -- were notecessary necessary. i may clarify, there is no active technology countermeasure to defeat the rpg. the rpg is a rocket propelled grenade. i believe with the gentle man was referring to was for surface to air missiles or an active seeker. we have countermeasures for those. we do not have countermeasures ballistic rocket propelled grenade right now active. we are researching and trying to do that and none currently
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exist. >> i appreciate that. the other criticism that has been out there in the press is that the way this went down, that there was a several hour were aht, that there number of he lows in the area, apaches, and also the ranger team that went in first, and then when he chinook came in with 30 personnel on board, that tactically inadvisable to have a long-term firefight making me insurgents in that area aware of the major operation, and then having the chinook come in relatively slower aircraft and then be exposed to insurgent fire. can you address those allegations?
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the enemy that fired at undetected7 remained through those scans. we did not detect that enemy. did not achieve, frankly, the element of surprise into the valley that was planned and anticipated. ok. i believe my time has expired. i yield back. >> we now recognize the gentlewoman from california. you, andairman, thank
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thank you to all of the members me firstnel and let say to the families who are here, we know how broken your -- i'llre, and we share be at at some distance, the same ande of loss that you do, there is no way that we can make you whole again and that is very difficult i think for all of us. through this hearing and others we will at least have solace in knowing that we will take steps to make sure that those who are serving our country in war zones have absolutely the best protection available. everything.resee that is why we have lost the men and women in battle we have, but that does not mean we should not try to redouble our efforts to protect them.
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so thank you. let me ask -- there have been concerns raised about the way those fallen servicemembers from extortion 17 were transported and whether they were afforded the appropriate respect. for instance, some have raised concerns about which flags were used to drape over the caskets of some of the fallen heroes during a ceremony at barbara merrifield -- at barbara merrifield --- at bagram airfield. could you provide an understanding about the catastrophic nature of this crash that from what i understand made it possible in some respects to distinguish american from afghan dead? remains of the distortion 17 servicemembers were not known until they were examined my understanding is i the medical
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seminar in dover following the transfer ceremony. is that right? >> thank you, ma'am, for your question. that is correct. given the trauma associated with this incident, all of the asains were brought to dover believes to be unknown until scientifically identified by the armed forces medical examiner. there was no way to positively identify these individuals. >> is that the protocol that is always use and has always and uses oracle? always used historically? >> yes, ma'am. every remain that concert over is believed to be -- they can be visibly recognized in certain instances, so every situation is different. this particular incident was an aircraft accident that was very traumatic. >> in hindsight, would you have handled any differently?
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>> well, ma'am, you know, the decisions were made at the time based upon the information they , and theable scientific identification process has to occur at dover airport -- >> i understand that. i am just trying to put my self in the shoes of family members ceremony,t the watching these caskets come off without an american flag draped over them. and arguably, maybe you would have the afghan flag and the american flag, but having a coffin come off that has no flag draped on i'm sure gave family members a sense of pain that was magnified by everything else that they had endured. >> ma'am, while i was not there at the time of the event, i can tell you that there was a lot of debate that occurred about this on how to properly provide honor
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and respect to all of the members of extortion 17, and there were different courses of action that were discussed with the leadership within the office of the secretary of defense in the final -- and the final determination was to flag flags30 of the american and eight with afghan flags. >> and a decision was based on what? if i may respond to that question, again, as colonel devillier stated, our leadership was presented with several courses of action. after we had discussed with our colleagues within the service casualty departments on how to militaryr our servicemembers, the u.s. fallen, and our coalition forces, understanding that remains were on route to the united states, we had to make a decision rather quickly. again, it was a catastrophic event, the largest incident of
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the number of fallen in one single incident in afghanistan, so based off the course of action consult with our military leadership, osc decided to best honor, we would be able to display the 30 transfer cases the best we could identify carrying our u.s. servicemembers and eight our coral -- our coalition forces. in transfer to the united states, all remains were under u.s. flag cover as per our policy if we cannot make the distinction. all 30ll -- so en route, transfer cases were under u.s. flag cover. >> i realize my time is expired. mr. chairman, if you would indulge me for one moment. i think it would be helpful to all of us if you query the how theymbers as to perceive to this return and if they would have any suggestions.
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just for future reference. i yield back. >> thank you. i will now recognize the gentlewoman from illinois, ms. kelley, for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chair, and thank you, witnesses for being here, and thank you for your service and those in the audience, whether retired or not. my condolences to the family. ms. gilman, you spoke about the person authorized to direct disposition, and i was just special-- is there resources or told that are given to the families of or therefore the families to help them through this time or whoever the person is that has been appointed the pad? do you help them with their decision? >> ma'am, a casualty assistance officer, or different names, we will refer to them as assistance officers, are assigned to the designated person at the pad,
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and they are provided information. we do not persuade, we do not make recommendations, we merely try to make sure that they have all of the information available to them to help them in making a decision. they provide -- they are provided with the options that are available to them and the amounts that are allowable under law to pay for funeral expenses and what government can provide for them. >> ok, thank you, and i yield back. >> thank you. pursuant to committee rules, members of the committee -- oh, my apologies. i recognize the gentleman from vermont, mr. wells, for five minutes. >> thank you very much. i think mr. chaffetz for the hearing. and i want to thank you for to thanke, and i want the families and i want to thank you. how can any of us deal with the loss of a loved one?
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are all proud obviously of those who die in the service of our country. our response really is to recognize that we have these americans who sign up and volunteer no matter what the willon may be, and they report for duty when the commander in chief says we need you. and this democracy would never work if we do not have citizens who are willing to put aside their own judgment when it comes to what america's engagement should be and defer to civilian leadership. our responsibility here more than anything else is to make certain that missions that we set america on our worthy of the willingness of our civilians who become military people to make the ultimate sacrifice. out ofy that really respect for the families. i'm going to ask one question that i know the answer to. these families have all been effected in the same way. they have lost a loved one.
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they have all been affected in different ways because how one deals with loss is very personal. some people need more information and some people need more privacy. the question i have of you is -- will you be available to each of the families to give them every bit of information that you can about every detail that they receive to try to respect the needs and desires and the emotions of each of the families? and they have different ways of trying to work through this enormous loss. thank you. sir, i think i can speak on behalf of all of my colleagues here. we welcome the opportunity to assist every family member with their individual needs and we will be more than happy to speak to the family members when they are ready. pursuant to committee rules, we do have some flexibility in allowing colleagues who do not serve on this committee to join us and ask questions. i would ask my colleagues for unanimous consent to allow mr.
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ritual of virginia and mr. riggellrry -- mr. of virginia and mr. fortenberry. without objection, so ordered. they care deeply about this issue and they are also very relevant to this issue. i appreciate their presence. i now recognize mr. riggell for five minutes. >> given that i do not serve on this committee, i am grateful for the chairman was up the title of the hearing is honoring .he heroes of extortion 17 my comments are provided here today in that spirit, and i hope it honors the goodman that we lost. even within a community that is , the loss great risks of extortion 17 was truly tragic and profound. and so to the families that are
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here today, from one american to another, i offer you my deepest condolences. merits andagedy should receive and i believe has received unflinching recognition, looking at every measure to see if indeed we could have done something different. because we owe that to the men who we lost that day to honor their memory, and also we owe it to the commanders and the war fighters that will follow them to provide them with any lessons that could be learned to give our war fighter every advantage in a equipment, technical procedures, and doctrine to allow them to come home safely. you know, each member of this here, whethering a member lost someone in their
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, but as my not friend and colleague, mr. welch, i think gracefully offered, our district has had a distortion a loss.- a disproportionate it is both humbling and honoring and sobering really to represent so many of our war fighters and their families. it is well known that there is at least some degree of controversy associated with the hearing itself. there is not unanimity about me , and i have a duty and a privilege of representing the second district in virginia and the families who were there overwhelmingly have made clear that their desire would be that we did not hold the hearing. but i am especially grateful to the chairman and to all who have
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offered their remarks today that respect a deep level of and our heartfelt condolences extend of course to each and every family. i have listened carefully to the testimony that has been offered here today under oath. each one of you, i believe, meet the high standard of an american patriot, and it is not a term that i offer casually. i deeply respect your service to our country. mr. reid, i think your own experience in particular and your intense investigation here is noteworthy. do you have any question whatsoever, mr. reid, but there was no communication at all between americans and afghans that would have in any way jeopardize or compromised that mission?
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>> no, sir, i do not have any questions that that information was provided. i know from those involved that this particular 17 mission was not coordinated externally. >> is it your testimony here today that it with the aircraft that was selected for this operation was appropriate to the mission? >> yes, sir. >> the testimony that i've heard not only today, but the classified material itself, which of course we cannot go into, i do, and this is with deep respect to those who share or actually hold a different view. and i wouldlling, hope that in this hearing, the fact that it was held, it can ofng perhaps a measure
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closure on some of the technical issues that need to have been worked through and i think indeed have, certainly to my satisfaction. all who are here today and i certainly think all who have testified and i think the chairman and all of the members of the committee for the opportunity to speak and i yield back the remainder of my time. >> thank you, tournament. i now recognize the gentleman from nebraska, mr. fortenberry, for five minutes. z, andnk you, mr. chaffet members of the committee for the opportunity to speak. it is a difficult moment for the families and those of you who attend to the families. all of us.ficult to let me extend my heartfelt of these to all who have lost loved ones through this tragic incident and also commend mr. rigell for something that i think he put very well. i hope the outcome of this
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committee provides a measure of loge or for all of those who have suffered so grievously. in late summer 2011, much in my office, i was notified that a young man from nebraska had been killed. his name was john. john was a first generation american. communisms had fled in laos and had come to the unit is saved in 9035 to rebuild their lives. they are good americans, and their son after high school, like so many other americans after 9/11, joined the navy. fifth tour of duty and john had a specialty. he had a specialty with an assault dog. his name was bart, and he happened to be on the helicopter as well and was also killed. he family was kind enough to ask me to speak at the memorial city there, and even kind enough
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again, even though this is no longer in my congressional district because the lines have changed, to invite me back on memorial day last year for the unveiling of a statue of john parkis dog bart at the there in south sioux city. those of you who are in the military and those of you who one, to knowoved that all of your loved ones are honored in a special way, but to out touringtory, the of that community, should be of lifting to all of us as americans. briefonly have one question, and it is a sensitive issue, but i would like to give a little bit more rarity on it. the memorial service that took place immediately after the incident. were there insulting remarks made by an afghan cleric there
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yo? >> thank you, congressman. the three people spoke at the ceremony that you are asking about. service, theial troops call it a ramp ceremony. we make a decision policy between ceremonies and services, but they call a ceremony, and they have been doing it the whole war, and it is important, if i may -- the question was made earlier about why we do that. the troops are in the atul foiled -- the battlefield and there continuing the fight. they do not come back to see their loved comrades off, so that if their farewell. they are film for the purpose of providing those to be families. they're filmed by that organization at the commander's time with an that policy, as you heard the policy has been changed by cincom in 2013. but they are done so for the families and they provide that to them as a memento of what
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they did downrange. three people spoke. the commander of the operations task force, a u.s. military ,haplain, and a third gentleman to get your question, who is an afghan, who is a kernel, a commander of the afghan unit that we work with. he has been working with us in a very trust," and cooperative way for several years. he is still there, he started i believe in 2009. he accounts for those special troops that are assigned to our task force. as i mentioned, they come out of program. he is the one that spoke. there is no other one that spoke. i don't speak arabic, i am not a religious scholar. we have had people in our government listen to what he was saying. i am told, again, not my authority, that there are verses
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that he's fighting. -- citing. he is commemorating all of the fallen. there are some interpretations i've seen on the internet that he is condemning the americans, the infidels. again, not my expertise, but what we have been told on good authority is he is commemorating all of our fallen and condemning the enemy. but i understand things are subject to interpretation, sir. but that is who was speaking. >> and that was one of the points that i think was .articularly sensitive that was under public scrutiny. mr. chairman, thank you again for the privilege of being with you during this particularly difficult hearing. let me just conclude that i am not here on behalf of the dou angdara family. i just got to know them and i wanted to honor john's life. he was dedicated to his community, he was a warrior.
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john was an american. >> thank you, gentlemen. i appreciate your participation and your heart and caring. i will now recognize the gentleman from new mexico, ms. grisham, for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and i, too, very much appreciate your participation in today's hearing and to work diligently to assure that we have the right totocols and procedures support the men and women who give their life and their families in the most appropriate, meaningful way that we possibly can. the pain ofgine losing a family member or a loved one in this kind of an incident. and i offer and share with my colleagues in giving my the best condolences and sympathy for the family members who are here today and all of those family members who have suffered these kinds of losses. on behalf of this country. that the department of defense has an obligation to
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do absolutely everything that i that it can can do -- possibly can do to be trent franks him a supportive, and to do that at the highest possible it possibly can do to be supportive and transparent. to walk us through everything that the dod has insured that it there is a district -- a direct and sustained line of vacation between the department of defense, family liaison officers, and families of american serving in harms way is, and what services and supports specifically are you providing you? >> ma'am, thank you for your question. the level of the continued support we provide to our surviving family members -- >> correct. >> our current policy requires of course that an assistance officer, whether it is a
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casualty representative from the air force or the army or navy and marine corps, assist the family members to the initial phase of a loss. we are also required to provide long-term support for those family members for as long as they want to be a part of the military community. again, we want that family member to feel that they can be a part of the military community for as long as they need us. each service has their own long- term care program. army, for example, can expand the -- can expound upon that. they have a services program, and i will allow you to talk weather program of the that program is the dutch is in place. there are people that are available for the family members term caree that long- support. >> thank you. can you give me some specifics, and counseling, other therapeutic services, an
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opportunity for suggestions on how to improve those processes, involvement in the services, and to the highest degree possible, can you give me some level of specificity about because of services that you are providing to family members and loved ones? >> yes, ma'am. it is those long-term programs. they want you to keep them involved, especially run our community. some family members are not close to military installations, so we want to reach out to them, make sure that they are part of the community. ouronstantly work with other agencies that provide support our family members, so the marine corps may invite family members to events, the army survivor outreach services ay bring in -- provide session that provides counseling for family members, make sure that if they need bereavement counseling, they can reach out to the department of veterans affairs or other agencies who may be providing that level of support, but again, it is a case manager who is assigned to that family member that knows what
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their specific needs are. >> and given that each one of these tragedies is very accept, we want to absolutely evaluate it in the context of many getting for the future but also supporting men and women and again the family members who suffer these kinds of tragedies. process also about being clear about things of the family's way to do to improve, and how that communication occurred, and why can congress be doing to assure that all of these protocols and processes amanda and sort of grow and really meet the needs current situation than a potential for future issues that should be supported in a context of these families? >> thank you, ma'am. requiresnt program that we proactively provide family members and inform them of specific federal entitlement.
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program is of course dependent upon the family's needs. we have two governing bodies -- the casualty advisory board and the essential joint mortuary affairs board. those two boards that these members represent, they are voting number for both of those boards. they are the governing bodies that we insure we are doing things right by the family members. at those times, we review specific cases, we may review recommendations where we think legislation needs to be corrected, where survivors met.ds are not being they may be a gap in policy. we make regulations at that time. >> mr. chairman, with your diligence, i have one small follow-up. how often are those reports or suggestions -- is that annually, quarterly? and i would suggest that we have
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more access to that kind of in this committee, mr. chairman. >> ma'am, we meet quarterly. >> but that information is available quarterly, or do you have an annual report? >> there is no reporting requirement to congress at this time, ma'am. >> thank you, mr. chairman, i yield back. >> thank you. in consultation with the braking member tierney, i have a series of questions. really we try to get as many questions from the family as possible, so i will go through a series of questions. again, it will not answer every question that every family member have, but it is a good representation of some of their specific concerns. can tell you i that having reviewed the records , both the pilots that were operating this aircraft, exceptional quality skill, and high rating. there were some questions about why was there no pre-assault fire lay down before -- as this
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helicopter was coming in. would you help there for that, mr. reid? >> yes, sir, thank you. the use of assault fire is tactical base on the decisions on the ground. the objective of extortion 17 was to get into the lz and drop of the assault force in the party area without a learning -- without alerting the enemy. as we explained the other day, the enforcement were going to then walked closer to the target. so you are trying to achieve surprise. -- andin advance of that a suppressive fire motive -- would be highly alerting to the enemy. secondly, there was no enemy detected on the landing zone. let me clarify this is a tactical decision. >> can you give me a sense of the time of day? >> 2:39 in the morning on the morning of august 6, 2011. one of the concerns -- there of the concerns --
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were some allegations that there were afghans on the helicopter, i should say, and then got off and a different group got on, which begs an awful lot of questions. can you help clarify that please yo? >> yes, sir, thank you. there are two groups of afghans assigned to this task force. one group went on with the rangers, the second report on extortion 17. there was a mistake made after the crash to retrieve the list of afghans that were aboard 17. he listed that was provided was for the other squad that was with the rangers. this created this confusion and led to some speculation that there was a switching out of the actual forces. that is not the case, sir. >> why were there afghans on the plane? what kind of experiences we have with these people -- i keep saying plain. on the helicopter. what kind of experience that we have come away kind of missions to they have in the past, is this a new group, can you provide some context, please? >> yes, sir. this group of afghans we
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referred to as our partner unit and they have been aligned with our assault forces going back to 2009. the purpose of these forces is to facilitate actions on the objective primarily by speaking with and dealing with the enemy and the civilians on the target because they speak the language and they know the culture. earlier, thened majority of these missions, since we started doing this, result in what we call a tactical call out, saying we are out here, come out. 80% of emissions therefore because of this capability are accomplished without any shots being fired, so it greatly enhances our safety. that is why we -- that is why they were there. how they got there is a very long and extensive training cycle that lasts about seven months. they are hand selected out of the afghan army and afghan police and other security services. they are vetted, trained, and selected and then aligned with our units. they are paired with our forces. they go on a rotation cycle just
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like our forces did. our assault forces go in for about 90 days in cycles, and we rotate them back out. we align the afghans in a similar cycle, and they repeat that. these folks, again, for the previous two years prior to we arevery mission taking them on the objective with us. this was not a new construct. >> my understanding, as general cole conducted part of this review, and one of the questions -- it appears there were no afghans interviewed. why not? >> sir, i do not know specifically why no afghans were interviewed. the focus of his investigation in the list of questions that the commander of centcom charged him to answer did not require him to interview others outside hours trainingnd and equipment chain. -- >> perhaps you can provide additional information to the committee. i want to go back to the ramp
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ceremony itself. having been through a number of meetings, classified, unclassified discussions, not to belabor the point, but to my colleagues here, i think one of the --and this is just jason chaffetz, just to me, personally, my personal take on it. you all are the experts. you have been doing it for years. but my sense of it is that if you do have a situation where ande are deceased americans whatever country, in this case, afghanistan, my sense of it is that there probably should be two different ceremonies. i think if -- i mean, i cannot even imagine having my son or daughter go through this. saying want some afghan something about my son. i don't want that. [applause]
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so i hope -- we are supposed to be the oversight and government reform. i would hope the pentagon would seriously consider honoring those americans is our number one priority. [applause] and of course we are going to honor those that also lost their lives, but do it separately. and let's not have this mistaken this heart ache that these families feel. that is my suggestion. and mrs. gilman, i need you or one of the others to help skilin -- and ms. lman, i need you are one of the others to play and how is it that we can lay a tombstone in a go back and change it? in some cases, i think it happened three times. can you shed some light on this? and you are very committed, patriotic -- it is not all on her shoulders. to the families and members here, she is the brave one who is sitting here helping us.
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but this is very hard for a family to go through. can you please shed some light on this? >> yes, sir. what iup interment is believe you are referring to, the group at sun is at arlington national cemetery. per our current policy, we may decide if there are remains that may -- they cannot be identified to a single individual, that we may have a group interment of those at a specific place. arlington is pretty regularly. and then a headstone is placed on that location. ofmally, we list the names the deceased. there are some challenges in this particular case because of our coalition forces. we struggled with how we would appropriately label that headstone. in deference to the family members, we should have given to reviewpportunity
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our suggestions, and i think that is something that we can ever putefore we another headstone on a group interment, conferring with the family members of how they would like that to be done. >> i appreciate it. i have one more topic, and then if any members have additional questions -- you know, the people out there who are paying attention and care about extortion 17, they did not just make this thing up about a black rocks being lodged away. that was not do something that somebody made up out of the blue. there is some reason to believe his -- i am not sure what rank is, but that the commander essentially on the ground made note of the fact that they were looking for this black box and they could not find the black box. , mr., you are telling us reid, that these helicopters are not even equipped with them, but how is it the standard would
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know that? exactlyi cannot speak to what the commander and thought. i've seen the transcript where he talked about looking for it. i would say that this crash environment is a hostile we did not have complete freedom of action and freedom of thought. what we were doing, what we were according to the what we were looking for. the team went in there in the immediate moments after the crash to recover the fallen. as i indicated, over a period of four days going through the wreckage. i do not know why they thought they would be looking for one, either, but i have spoken to our --ation committee th community, and they have assured me that those helicopters are not equipped with such a device. >> thank you. for those on the committee -- i just want people to know that many of our men and women who intermittently involved in this are also continuing to serve and serve abroad.
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anyway, i appreciate it. does any other member have additional question or comment? the gentlewoman from wyoming. >> mr. chairman, i simply want to comment that i am proud of the work you have done as chairman on this. went apparent that you through this record exhaustively and that you took to heart the concerns that certain family members have. i recognize that there are other families who may have felt differently about the appropriateness of this hearing, but i just want to commend you and thank you for your diligent who didor the families have concerns so that they would have an opportunity today to hear you ask the questions that they have had on their minds and hearts. i just want to thank you, mr. chairman. i think you have done a very
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commendable thing. >> thank you. we recognize the gym and from massachusetts. to add mywant comments and i hope that the families that had concerns and questions have now felt they've had a opportunity to hear really to thosenswers concerns are that they will be heard going forward and attention will be a to their continuing concerns and questions. i want to address our panelist today, i think nothing that i have read or heard would indicate that any of you preceded or goes under your command have proceeded with anything but the best of intentions. and caring and concern for their colleagues. with whom they either works directly or indirectly or at least empathize with because of their shared commitment to this country into each other. and i commend all of you also for diligently going about your investigations in the revue in the same manner and also the willingness to learn, whether the learning was appropriate on that, thank you for your service
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. you represent your country well. >> thank you. as we conclude here. the five first thank people who were sitting here before us. you have a tough assignment indeed, probably one of the most important assignments. it is a great opportunity, and i know you all feel that. i have chatted with you previously. i can tell that in your demeanor and your approach. we thank you for your service and your dedication. obviously,antly, we unanimously, regardless of party or politics or anything else, we men and womenhe enough to serve this nation and know that they have given their lives for this nation. there is a different group of people in our country, and these women who rund
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into action, they run to the firefight. it is the american way. there is a certain group of people who just to do that. they do it instinctively. in those americans who do that are heroes. thank the families for their sacrifice. this is the largest loss of life that has happened -- and it has happened, unfortunately, thousands of times. and i just hope they feel the love of this nation. i appreciate the hearing. we stand adjourned. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2014] [captioning performed by national captioning institute]
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those under the age of 35. we'll take your phone calls on the first lady's nutrition initiative. ♪ host: it was four years ago that michelle obama began her "let's move" campaign to combat childhood obesity. she is in the forefront talking about that effort and unveiling new food labels. here's the first lady from earlier this week. [video clip] >> be issued a new school wellness guideline to